Collections, When to Stop

We all collect things.  It might be something relatively unusual or completely commonplace.  Women have the stereotype of collecting shoes and/or purses.  I’ve talked many times about my own collecting of media – books, music, and (somewhat) movies.  Men have been stereotyped as collecting tools and/or electronics.  Stereotypes can often some basis in truth, though we cannot mistake that as truth or being even remotely close to typical.

Collecting things is not bad in and of itself.  It seems to me that it’s an inevitable fact of living.  We need clothes and shoes to survive.  Often we need certain things to apply to different situations and occasions – not all shoes are appropriate in all settings – which means we all need more than one pair.  We find value in certain items – my books are knowledge and other worlds to me.  Also, we enjoy collecting things – there’s a desire to have more of this or that.

Therefore this is not about trying to tell you to avoid collecting things.  Nevertheless, we cannot collect things indefinitely.  There needs to be an end, a time and place where we stop.  We need to recognize how this applies to us, as individuals, and there is no simple answer.  Because of this, here’s a number of considerations for you as you contemplate your own collections, whatever they might be – and you can discover where that place is for yourself and your situation.

  1. Sometimes it’s as simple as the collection feels finished to you.  This means you need to be attuned to that feeling – paying attention to when you feel that you have enough.  It could mean that you have enough to cover those various occasions or unique characteristics.  Then you need to have the discipline to not collect more.  — i.e. shoes of different colors and style for your expected situations – although this does not mean you will no longer desire to collect more – yet you can choose to focus on the anticipation of getting more once one of the current items need replacing.
  2. A clear clue that it’s time to stop collecting is when you run out of space for your things. You need to decide whether there are other things that can go to make room for your collections or does some of your collection need to leave to make room for more.  — I’ve talked before about donating some shoes to make room for a partial bookshelf in my closet, and when I did this, I largely stopped bringing any more books in – I was aware of the limited space.
  3. Are you cycling your items in and out simply as a reason to collect more?  You need to examine your motivation here, if you enjoy the cycling things in and out, great.  On the other hand, if you are using that as an excuse to collect more, it might be time to stop and look at what else is going on for you.  Cycling things can be a great way to keep your things fresh and continue appreciating them.
  4. Have you stopped appreciating what you already have?  It’s remarkably easy to become blind to our things, we are so used to seeing them, and we begin to forget they are there.  If the number of items is getting in the way of your appreciating your collection, you might need to scale back your collection.
  5. Something I’m not sure how much we think about as consumers is that virtually everything requires some maintenance.  Are you able and willing to do the things to maintain your collection?  Many items are meant to be used – leather shoes need to be worn and if you want to maximize their life, they also need to be cleaned and waxed.  — I also think often of pearls with this – as they are meant to be worn, it helps keep their luster, yet many can be reluctant to simply wear them around the home – so we might not be maintaining our things as they need to be.

You might have noticed that some of what I’ve talked about might not be collections per se, someone could have one pearl necklace, but it is one more thing they have – is it being appreciated, protected, valued?  These questions can apply to more than just the things that can be grouped together – all the things in our homes are a collection of sorts.

Earlier I mentioned that there is a time and a place to stop our collecting – this is an individual process.  Jay Leno continues to collect cars, hiring people to help take care of all of them; I wonder how much he is able to actually appreciate this car collection.  It also doesn’t hinder his life apparently.  Most of us do not have this luxury, and I do not envy him – I appreciate my life of relative simplicity tremendously.  As I’ve said before in a previous post, do you have a collection or does your collection have you?

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